You’re telling me I’ve had this blog for nearly two years now, and I still haven’t told you the story of Nonnie and the swordfish?
Okay, I shouldn’t build it up too much. The gist of it is: During one of my childhood visits to California, Nonnie decided to make swordfish for dinner. Alas, as soon as she served it, even tiny whatever-year-old me knew the fish was no good—it was chewy and gristly and weird, despite whatever expert technique Nonnie had applied to it.
So—and this is the legendary part of the story, or at least what passes for legendary in my family—Nonnie then wrapped the swordfish up, brought it to her car, and took it back to Gelson’s, where she berated some poor fishmonger for who knows how long until he took the cooked, half-eaten fish from her very hands and gave her money back to her. That, my friends, is what we call chutzpah.
Anyway! If you get swordfish as fine as this, from the expensive local fish store that is open about as often as Brigadoon, your swordfish dinner hopefully won’t end the way that one did. In fact, it’ll probably end with you gingerly placing your fork down, turning to your dining companion, and remarking, “Why don’t people eat more swordfish? Swordfish is delicious!”
Believe it or not, there’s a specific reason this particular fish has fallen out of favor since the Clinton administration: in 1998, chefs banded together to remove swordfish from their menus, since its massive popularity meant that the world’s swordfish population was in danger of disappearing altogether. In the nearly 20 (gulp) years since, the population has recovered completely, and swordfish is actually one of the more sustainable seafood choices out there now—provided you’re buying the right kind.
Swordfish is also uncommonly delicious, especially when you cook it like this. Sure, it’s still expensive ($25 a pound, at Brigadoon Fishery!) and filled with mercury—but live a little, won’t you?
1/2-3/4 lb. per serving [I went with a little less than two pounds, which yielded plenty for two people with leftovers; I don’t know who could eat a whole 12 ounces of swordfish in one sitting]
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons tomato sauce or ketchup [You can guess which one I used, but honestly, I bet ketchup would be delicious, as it so often is]
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley [which is really more for color than anything else, so another herb would do just as well—cilantro, maybe? Chives? Basil? Choose your own adventure]
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup orange juice [I used lemon juice with half a teaspoon of sugar, because I hate oranges and I will not sully a beautiful fish with its foul taint]
1 teaspoon pepper
Place fish in a shallow baking dish. Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl, mix well, and pour over fish. Marinate for at least 2 hours. Broil fish and baste [or “bast,” as Nonnie so charmingly puts it] with marinade several times while broiling. [I cooked mine for about five minutes total per side, which was enough to cook it all the way through without drying it out; you could probably go even less if you wanted a rarer piece of fish. I also put it on a rack in the pan in an attempt to get good color on both sides, although I’m not sure how much of a difference that ultimately made.]
The verdict: Mmmmm. As that disembodied woman’s voice used to say on The Soup: “So meaty!”
The fish itself was toothsome and firm and juicy, complemented beautifully by the marinade, which caramelized under the broiler in a most enticing way. (The pan was a bit of a bitch to clean up afterwards, even though I covered it in tinfoil first—but what can you do?) The expense and marination time combined mean this probably won’t be entering my weekly rotation anytime soon, but I’m glad I have this recipe in my back pocket just in case I ever come into a fortune. . . and a cure for mercury poisoning.